Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Choice-related stress and uncertainty

What are the behavioral, cognitive, and motivational consequences of decision reversibility?

Our lives are replete with decisions. Whereas most of these decisions are irreversible (e.g., deciding to sell one’s car, to quit a job, or to remove a birthmark from one’s face), other decisions allow for corrective action. Such reversible decisions provide the opportunity to change our minds about the chosen course of action and to adjust our behavior.


People appear to prefer reversible to irreversible decisions. They, for instance, favor shops in which customers are allowed to exchange a purchase within two weeks, or prefer to provide temporary rather than permanent contacts to new employees. Research, however, revealed that having the option to reverse a choice is not always as beneficial as we initially believe. Reversible decisions, for instance, appear to yield lower levels of satisfaction with the decision outcome than decisions that are immediately final. Apparently, people lack the insight to foresee these unwanted consequences of decision reversibility. They seem to rely on the assumption that reversible decision-making yields better decision outcomes than irreversible decision-making, whereas, in fact, the opposite seems to be true.


In this project, we aim to thoroughly examine the behavioral, cognitive, and motivational consequences of decision reversibility. Furthermore, we try to understand what factors have an influence on the consequences of decision (ir)reversibility and what type of people are especially affected by the option to reverse a choice.

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